Working in the hospital, it’s easy to forget that this is not the child’s or family’s normal routine. This may be something I see everyday, but they don’t; as the child life specialist, it’s important to walk the patients through exactly what will be going on in developmentally-appropriate terminology.
One patient (four-year-old) that I really connected with when I first started my job at the hospital was Christopher*, who was expected to go home only if he was able to take his medicine by mouth. The nurse asked if there was anything I could do to help since he’d been spitting out the medicine due to the bad taste.
I brought in multiple syringes (just like they give medicine in), paint and construction paper and asked if he wanted to do a craft with me. Christopher very much enjoys crafts so he was very excited.
As I started to set up the craft in his bed, he saw the syringes and said, “Hey…wait a second. These are my pushers.” I looked at him as if I didn’t understand,
“Wait…you use these for medicine?”
“Yes! Mommy squirts them in my mouth like a rocket ship.”
“Well, what if we use them to paint instead?”
His eyes lit up as he thought about how messy and fun that would be. We spent the next half hour painting with syringes and talked about medicine.
“Hey Christopher…what does medicine do for you?”
“It helps my body heal.” (smart boy… can’t believe he’s only four!)
“You’re right! Does all medicine taste good?”
“NO. Some medicine tastes really, really bad.”
“But does the bad medicine still help your body heal?”
“So what happens if you take the bad medicine and then spit it out? Is it still able to help your body heal?”
“No…I guess not.”
“So what are some ways that we can help the medicine not taste so bad? Because even if medicine doesn’t taste the best, we still need to take it to help our body heal.”
We discussed different ideas and decided that taking it really fast and drinking Apple Juice right afterward seemed like the best idea.
We practiced a few times on his Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal to make sure we had it down. He put the syringe up to Winnie’s face and said, “Okay! Here comes your medicine!” Winnie took it very quickly and I followed it up with Apple Juice just like we planned.
Fast forward a few hours and it’s 15 minutes past when I knew he was supposed to have his next dose of medicine. The nurse tells me that he took it like a champ! No spitting out his medicine or anything!
I peek my head into his room and act as if I’m unaware. He’s standing in a Superman pose, hands on his hips, with a smile on his face.
“Christopher… did you take your medicine?”
“Even the bad medicine…?! No spitting it out?!”
“Nope! I took it all! Because that is how my body can heal, Miss Jessica.”
Precious. I love moments like this.
*name has been changed for confidentiality purposes